When we were in Myanmar we kept seeing these old ladies smoking these huge cigars. They would be by entrances to temples, on frequently traveled pathways and sitting in the middle of little villages. Most of these women were super tiny and these cigars just seemed so disproportionately huge. But, the huge cigar is common and normal in Myanmar.
The technical name for these cigars is cheroot. They are basically cigars of varying sizes that have both ends chopped off and are smoked holding a bowl under the end of the larger ones. They are made with tobacco leaves, tobacco stalk and spices (either tamarind or jaggery). The outer layer isn’t paper, but Tha-nut hpet leaves which comes from the Sebesten tree. Occasionally they are made with corn husks, but that is mostly for poorer people or those who live far out in the countryside. The filters vary between rolled corn husks and compressed fibers from a sugarcane stalk.
I find it funny that every site I’ve looked at to determine the components of the cheroot and how it is made say that these are not very harmful to a person’s health since they aren’t entirely tobacco and that women like to smoke them because it adds a fresh fragrance and pleasant taste to their mouths. No matter how diluted it is, it’s still tobacco and tobacco is bad to bring into your body, regardless of how pretty it tastes. Personally, I’d just recommend brushing your teeth and using mouth wash if you want your mouth to taste nice. But that’s just me.
One of the other things I noticed while looking into these is that there is more than just the one size. The bigger ones are used mostly in the countryside and the city people and factories make them smaller, about the size of regular cigarettes and cigars. An interesting tidbit I learned about the different sizes is that women tend the smoke the larger ones more than men do. Not exactly sure why, though.
While these women sit around in public places and smoke these cigars, creating a fascinating picture, if they catch you taking their picture they will demand you give them money. If you don’t, they will become quite upset. So, be sneaky or be prepared to pay. We paid once we realized that’s what she wanted and then just avoided taking pictures of anyone smoking after that.
Even if you’re not taking a picture of the women smoking these cigars, it’s fun to sit and watch them smoke and talk. They seem like they’re having so much fun sometimes. We did come across some ladies who seemed to be having quite the serious conversation and it was interesting to watch them.